The move to Beaminster in November 1919, meant some changes for Grandad Beck, as Police Superintendent, I wrote about some of these here. Blandford had more military personal unlike Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis which were more rural. Blandford Camp was a depot for the Royal Naval Division until 1918 when it became an intake camp for the newly reformed Royal Air Force. During 1919 there were several motor related court cases at the Blandford Petty sessions, I have written about two which involved RAF drivers. To give a flavour of life in 1919, the year after the end of World War One, I have included a summary of some of the other cases before Blandford Magistrates. First is a sad case of the death of a young girl that was killed in a motor accident.
I wrote about the Standing Committee as they debated the police budget during a recession. Dorset Police Pay and Promotion during the Great Depression. In this post I looked several other issue that had been reported in the Western Gazette during the first half of the 1930s.
The Home Office wanted the police to have telephones in all police houses, to facilitate communication within the force and with the public. But the Dorset Standing Committee didn’t agree, partly on cost and partly because they considered it unnecessary in a rural area. This was discussed many times over the years.
The Dorset force was more compliant when the Home Office instigated motor patrols around the country to, among other duties, rigorously monitor the speed of motor vehicles. Dorset started with motorbikes before buying cars. Superintendents provided their own motorcars and were given an allowance for the use their cars for police duties. From the list given in 1933 Grandad Beck was the only one who didn’t own a car.
Improvements to both Bridport and Beaminster police stations were considered necessary. A new police station was considered for Beaminster which caused Beaminster people to be concerned that they would no longer have a local Justice court. After much discussion it was decided to keep the station in Prout Hill – now the youth centre.
“Appalling dangerous driving on the roads” Grandad Beck was quoted as saying by the Bridport News in 1935. In 1930 over 7,300 people were killed on the roads, compared with 1,700 in 2013. After the invention of motor engine the variety of road users increased as never before. The pedestrians, horses and horse drawn vehicles, and from the late Ninetieth century bicycles where joined by many forms of motorised vehicles. By 1930 there were approximately one million private cars in Britain.
The cases I have chosen to write about include some of the variety of road users. The first involve a Pony and cart in Bridport where the passengers landed on the pavement when they had a collision with a charabanc, a lovely name for a bus or coach. Cyclists also had to share the road with motor vehicles and these amounted to nearly 50% of traffic (see Traffic Regulated by Automatic Signals) and I have written about one of the many accidents between cars and cyclists.
One case in the Bridport News stood out for me because it gave me more information about my Great, Grandfather.
In October 1933 Grandad Beck was himself involved in a car accident as a passenger in a taxi. While giving evidence Grandad Beck said He had travelled thousands of miles with Foot (the taxi driver). Thousands, that sounds a lot, was he exaggerating or the Bridport News. I started to consider whether Grandad Beck had a car and drove. From newspaper reports of the Police Standing Committee I knew that some of the Dorset Superintendents received allowances for the use of their own cars on police business. Supt. Beck was not mentioned, therefore I can assume that he didn’t have a car. When I asked my father he said, “Grandad didn’t drive and always used a taxi”. When Grandad Beck visited Wytherston (our farm near Powerstock) he always came with the same taxi driver. Continue reading “What Speed is that Motor Vehicle Doing?”
“All this appalling dangerous driving on the roads”, was Grandad Beck’s view of the standard of driving in 1935. One dangerous place was the junction of South, West and East street at the town hall Bridport. For those that don’t know the town, coming from South Street, there is very little visibility to see the traffic coming from the West. Also traffic turning into South Street from East Street had to take the sharp corner wide to get around, as you can see from the first photograph. I can remember the traffic lights not working, turning right into East Street from South Street was scary and difficult to know if there would be any other vehicles coming towards me. Bridport Borough Council had been asking for “road traffic signal lights”, at the junction for a while. Bridport’s automatic traffic signals were officially opened at 12 noon on Saturday, 4th May 1935, by the Mayor (Councillor W. S. B. Northover) who set the system in operation by turning a key in the “station” under the Town Hall colonade. The Mayor was accompanied by his Deputy (Councillor S. J. Gale) and Councillor F. S. Cornick (Chairman of the Town Council Highways Committee). After this there were numerous drivers coming up before the Borough Police court and in the first few months Grandad Beck was prosecuting.